Civil society is full of anchor institutions that often provide leadership by setting agendas and raising awareness of certain issues. One such group of these institutions is universities and due to the recent dispute with the UCU these organisations have often found themselves in the news. Although this trade union confrontation being at the forefront of discussions of campuses around the country, a number of universities are also making headlines by divesting themselves from fossil fuel companies. Removing universities’ financial support for companies destroying the earth will be a major step forward and has the potential to radically change the debate around anti-climate change measures.
Germany has become a world leader when it comes to renewable energy and climate action. According to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, over 31% of the country’ energy needs come from renewable energy which is significant given how many countries in the developed world are nowhere near that level. The consequence of this has been that air pollution emanating from Germany has declined but the nature of air pollution is that it crosses national barriers and as a result German cities are looking at new ways to reduce air pollution further. One such announcement made in the last week was that some are considering making public transport entirely free.
The Chinese government have correctly been praised from people around the world for its rapid expansion of renewable energy capacity, especially in regards to solar power. However increasing the amount of electricity generated from sustainable sources is not enough to slow down the impacts of climate change and reduce pollution. One of the other aspects of this issue is afforestation as this reduces the aggregate amount of carbon dioxide filtered out of the atmosphere. Thankfully it appears that China will act on this issue as well because the government has announced that it will plant enough trees to cover an area around the size of the Republic of Ireland.
The Adani Group is an Indian-based coal company that is seeking to expand their operations in the Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland. However, Adani have claimed that they do not have the capital to expand but this has been not been a cause of concern for the company as the Australian federal government has said that they would provide a A$1 billion taxpayer-funded loan to help finance the project. Unsurprisingly environmentalists in Queensland have been agitating against the expansion for some time now but the government in Canberra has take no notice. It appears, though, that Canberra will now take notice because of the Queensland state elections.
The European Union prides itself on emission reduction, combating pollution and generally protecting the environment. There have been countless EU directives and regulations that require member states to monitor their levels of emissions and reduce these levels by certain threshold dates. This is some of the good work of the EU and should be commended by all who want to see climate change combated. However it appears that some of the agencies backed by the EU are not on the same page as the European Bank of Reconstruction Development (EBRD) has just announced that it will loan $500 million to SOCAR, the state-run oil company of Azerbaijan.
When the protests around the Keystone XL pipeline made headlines a year ago much was made of how the continued construction of these pipelines was a short-term business decision as renewable energies were becoming increasingly affordable. Further, as a report from the International Energy Agency said this week, renewable energy technologies are the source of most added electrical capacity in the last year. It appears that TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, have accepted this premise as they have announced that the Energy East pipeline will be abandoned. This is an important decision and will hopefully snowball into a wider trend among fossil fuel companies.
In the never-ending scramble of resources, governments around the world are turning over every stone so that demand and be satisfied. This demand is driving governments and corporations to do irreversible damage to our planet but the people that are increasingly on the front-line are indigenous populations. In the United States it was the Sioux Nation at Standing Rock who loudly opposed the Keystone XL Pipeline. In Australia aboriginal communities have protested attempts by the both the government and private companies to mine their lands for precious resources including uranium. It appears that this trend is also affecting the indigenous people of Peru and they need people to stand up to support their cause.